Brewed At HomeMay 10, 2014
Story by Jonathan Streetman
Photos by Rachel Mummey
The smell hits you first.
Imagine cracking open a bottle of your favorite brew or sitting down at the bar and having a pint slid your way. The smell of hops floods your nostrils and the anticipation of that first sip is enticing.
Brewing beer is nothing like that.
The smell of beer-to-be boiling in the kettle of Wayne Patmore’s garage, tucked down a gravel road among Celestine’s rolling hills, is more reminiscent of a farmhouse than the pub down the street.
“That’s raw grain. Smells like you’re in a feed store,” said Patmore, stirring the pot.
The 46-year-old panel saw operator at UB Klem Furniture brewed his first batch of beer about 16 years ago with a Mr. Beer kit he purchased on sale at Big Lots.
That first batch could have been better, he said, “but 16 years ago I was happy with it. I didn’t know any better.”
He brewed off and on for the next decade, until about seven years ago when he began brewing on a regular basis. First he used malt extract kits, which Patmore likened to making instant soup. Several years ago, he made the switch to all-grain brewing, just like commercial breweries, but on a five-gallon scale.
“One day, I decided I was going to brew again, and it just kind of got away from me,” he said.
He’s joined the Dubois County Suds Club, a club for area homebrewers, and serves as vice-president. He’s entered his beer in contests around the country. He’s become one of the most proficient brewers in the county, promoting a hobby that is booming both locally and around the world.
The lenses on Patmore’s glasses fog up as he leans over the kettle full of boiling wort (pronounced wert), the condensation trapped under the bill of his newsboy cap.
It’s precise work, brewing beer, and he has to monitor heat from the propane burner constantly. Too much heat and the wort will boil over. Too little and he won’t achieve the flavor profile he’s targeting. It’s a tricky process.
In his basement, Patmore’s already carefully weighed the grains and the hops he needed for the day’s brew — a hoppy American wheat beer he’s developed over the years. With a hand-drill attached to the crank, he ground up the grains, preparing them for use.
He’s built a nice setup for himself. Plastic bins line the wall and hold a variety of grains while two refrigerators are dedicated to the fermentation and storage of gallons of beer and an assortment of hops.
In the garage, where the actual brewing takes place, he’s put together a station built from scraps of old press board. The beat up and stained table has platforms of varying heights set for different stages of the brew process, allowing gravity to move the wort through plastic tubing from vessel to vessel.
During each step of the process, Patmore glances at his iPad, on which he uses a special brewing app. There, he checks the brew’s recipe, when to add ingredients and the wort’s gravity. The gravity, or sugar content, that is documented during several stages of the process, will determine its alcohol content.
Before the boil, he stirred the grains in hot water in the mash tun for an hour, which converted the starches in the grains to fermentable sugars. Later, the yeast will consume those sugars and process them into carbon dioxide and alcohol.
After the sparge, which is the process of moving the wort from the mash tun to the boil kettle by running warm water over the grain bed, Patmore is ready for the 60-minute boil.
He adds the hops at four times during the boil, each addition adding either bitterness, flavor or aroma to the beer.
It’s all a learning process and, after years of trial and error, he’s starting to get it down.
He’s constantly trying new ingredients and techniques.
“It’s just a creative outlet basically. I enjoy beer,” Patmore said. “Unfortunately, in Dubois County it’s hard to find good craft beer. It’s almost easier to make it yourself.”
After cooling the wort to 68 degrees, he’s ready to transfer it into a plastic fermentation carboy, similar to the water cooler in your office. He pitches the yeast, a brewer’s term for pouring it into the top of the carboy, and places the carboy, ready for fermentation, in a fridge in his basement. In all, the process takes just less than five hours on a Saturday morning.
Gary Glass, director of the American Homebrewers Association, said the organization has seen a continual growth in the interest and participation of homebrewing the past few years.
In 2005, when the AHA had just 9,700 members, only 261 were from Indiana. Glass said the organization has seen an annual 20 percent increase. There are now more than 43,000 members, with 615 of those from the Hoosier State.
“Absolutely we’ve seen a lot of growth over the years,” said Glass, noting that an estimated 1.2 million adults in the United States brew their own beer. “Just about everybody knows someone who homebrews.”
Glass attributes the uptick to a large number of Millennials turning 21.
The do-it-yourself aspect is another reason Glass said homebrewers give for getting into the hobby.
“The No. 1 reason we hear is its artistic nature, that it provides a creative outlet,” he said.
Homebrewers are now able to be part of a larger community while obtaining access to better, fresher ingredients more readily available.
“Homebrewers can make great beer right off the bat,” Glass said. “It gets them hooked.”
Jesse Summers, owner of Southern Indiana Butcher Brewer BBQ Supply in Ferdinand, has noticed a growth in the Dubois County homebrewing community.
Summers opened the butcher supply store in October 2012 and was immediately asked if he had brewing supplies. By that winter, he did. His store is now stocked with ingredient kits, jugs, buckets, grain, hops, bottles and books as well as wine-making supplies.
Summers says he has around 100 regular customers, including Patmore and other members of the Suds Club.
He believes his customers, which range from 21-year-olds with a new hobby to old-timers brewing up hop-filled suds, buy into the do-it-yourself idea.
“I think in this area you see people that are self-reliant,” Summers said. “I expect the German heritage has something to do with it.”
When Patmore first started brewing, he didn’t realize there were others in the county making their own beer, too.
“I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. For years, though, I didn’t really know of anybody else homebrewing. At the time, I had no clue of even where to buy the stuff.”
Eventually, Patmore heard Jasper resident Bob Sunderman was selling homebrewing ingredients at a shop out of his home on Bittersweet Drive. Since those early days, the hobby has taken hold in the area.
“There’s been a tremendous growth,” Patmore said. “Once I got started with the (Suds Club) then I started seeing more and more people (start brewing).”
At a recent Suds Club meeting in the back room of Snaps restaurant and bar in Jasper, about 15 members showed up to hear a presentation about a couple members’ trip to the Guinness Brewery in Ireland. There was also a taste testing, using official AHA scorer’s sheets, of a dark chocolate beer — Boulder Beer Company’s Shake Chocolate Porter.
During that tasting, after which club members discussed the beer’s color, aroma and flavor, Patmore picked up on a special ingredient — cocoa nibs. He plans to incorporate the broken chunks of cacao beans into his award-winning vanilla porter in an upcoming batch.
“It’s been a learning experience for me. It’s been a teaching experience, too. The club has been great. I’ve learned a few things here and there,” he said.
For a while, Patmore was entering AHA homebrewing competitions throughout the country. His Vanilla Porter, Cream Ale and American Wheat have earned him acclaim locally and nationally, with wins at the Jasper Strassenfest, Southern Indiana Uncorked, New York City Homebrewer Guild, the Great Northern Brew Ha-Ha in Minnesota and Barley Mob Brewers “Fugetaboutit” competition in Chattanooga, amongst others.
A Suds Club trophy is perched proudly on his mantle, his Vanilla Porter the winner of the club’s 2013 Peoples Choice Award.
Patmore and several other Suds Club members even competed last fall in a homebrewing reality TV show called Beer Wars. The show, filmed in Evansville, is yet to air. His team competed in the Iron Chef-like one-day competition in which they had to brew a beer completely from memory using a secret ingredient.
However, the subjectivity of beer judging soured him on the competition circuit. He only competes at the local festivals anymore.
“You can send the exact same beer out on the west coast and the feedback ‘Oh, it’s not hoppy enough.’ The same beer on the east coast ‘It’s too hoppy.’ Send it down south, ‘Oh we love it.’ That’s kind of the reason why I’ve gotten out of it a little bit.”
This year, Patmore has only entered in Jasper’s German Club contest and plans to enter the Strassenfest competition as he has every year since 2008.
Although his desire for competition has waned, his love for brewing has not. Patmore would like to expand to a 10- or 15-gallon system soon. There is also talk of a new brewery coming to Jasper, but Patmore is wary to give away too much.
“Nothing’s definite or set in stone,” he said. But he’s excited about the prospect of growing the craft beer scene even more.
To him, it’s all about education and letting people experience good beer and the joy of making it themselves.
“Hopefully in the county it keeps growing.”
A few weeks after the brew day, the American wheat beer is fermented and ready to drink. Patmore added more hops to the beer about a week into fermentation, a technique called dry hopping that makes the beer burst with flavor. The smell of hops and citrus, a characteristic of the Centennial hops used, is intoxicating. That’s what he was aiming for.
Sitting at his kitchen table, right where he added the yeast to the carboy, Patmore takes a drink from the pint he’s poured himself from the keg in his garage.
“I don’t really have a message to the masses,” Patmore says, laughing. He takes another sip. “Drink more beer.”
Contact Jonathan Streetman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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